Bene Viera’s “Calling Yourself a Feminist Isn’t the Same as Being One” has sparked an interesting dialogue at Clutch and on Twitter. The issue of what feminism is and feminism ain’t always elicits fiery responses from those of us who proudly wave the blood-stained F-word banner and others who insist “I’m not a feminist, but …” (I support all the same things that all of you who call yourselves feminists support).
Like Viera, I often use bell hooks’s popular definition for feminism in Feminism is for Everybody to streamline feminism for my undergrad students. I also turn to the Combahee River Collective Statement to place black feminist organizing and activism in the historical context of the civil rights and black power movements. Combahee’s opening lines still resonate with black feminists today:
The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking.
The part of Viera’s piece that seems to concern most readers is her example of feminist misconduct. She writes:
I know readers of CLUTCH hate when Kat Stacks is brought into the equation. We are all so perfect and believe her to be the lowest of the low, undeserving of respect because she doesn’t respect herself. Personally, I disagree. Kat Stacks is not molded to fit our idealistic definition of a woman so she is deserving of the disgust people have for her? Yet Lauryn Hill is revered because she’s a deep soul sister, despite the several children she’s had with a married man.
But any time Kat Stacks is mentioned, women rush at the chance to tear her down. And, again, it’s when I see the degrading, hateful, and ridiculous comments of the feminists that I shake my head.
If we, as women and “feminists,” participate in the degradation of other women, how can we then condemn systematic oppression by men?
If, like me, you are wondering “Who’s Kat Stacks?” check out this link. From what I gather, Kat Stacks is the new “Superhead” and, like her predecessor, has received a fair amount of vitriol from the sistas. To be sure, feminist time can be better spent on something other than the Nicki Minajes or Kat Stacks of the moment, but it seems to me that critiquing Hill’s lifestyle choices is no different than disparaging Kat Stacks. Whether women are sex workers or rappers or soul singers who have unconventional ideas about family, feminism is first and foremost about women’s freedom of choice, right?
There is no one way to act like a feminist but there are many ways to put our feminism into action. How are you acting out your feminism?